Thousands of migrants trapped in Niger after coup


IOM on stranded migrants

from EMEKA OKONKWO in Abuja, Nigeria
Nigeria Bureau
ABUJA, (CAJ News) – THE recent border and airspace closures following the military coup in Niger have rendered impossible the repatriation of thousands of migrants from the West African country.

As a result, centres where the stranded migrants are held are overcrowded.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) reveals that its assisted voluntary return operations have been impeded, with all flights either postponed or cancelled for the time being.

Multiple departures meant to facilitate the voluntary return of over 1 000 migrants, primarily from Guinea and Mali, were cancelled or postponed since the coup at the end of July.

Concerns continue to grow as numbers of stranded migrants in need of assistance increase, with around 1 800 migrants awaiting assistance outside IOM transit centres while necessary capacity and resources diminish to host new migrants in the centres.

IOM is currently hosting around 5 000 migrants in seven transit centres strategically positioned along migration routes – four in the Agadez region and three in the Niamey region.

There, it provides urgent humanitarian assistance including accommodation, food, healthcare and voluntary return to the countries of origin.

At present, the capacity of these centres is overwhelmed with hundreds of migrants awaiting assistance outside.

In the first half of 2023, more than 60 000 migrants travelled through Niger, encompassing diverse profiles, including migrant workers and unaccompanied migrant children.

Despite the challenges presented by the ongoing political crisis, IOM has pledged commitment to providing essential services to migrants in its centres.

“However, the current extreme overcrowding raises the alarm over the health and safety of migrants and the organisation’s ability to deliver lifesaving assistance,” said a spokesperson.

Niger holds a unique position as a country of origin, transit and destination for intraregional migration movements.

The 5 697-kilometer borders shared with six neighbouring states put the country at the centre of most migratory routes in the region.

IOM is calling for the establishment of an urgent humanitarian corridor out of Niger for the stranded migrants to ease the overcrowding in its centres.

Niger sunk into crisis after the military ousted President Mohamed Bazoum.

The military regime of Abdourahamane Tchiani, supported by Burkina Faso and Mali, has scoffed at planned military intervention by the confused Economic Community of West African States.

The United Nations Human Rights Chief, Volker Türk, on Friday expressed grave concern for civilians forced to endure even more misery following last month’s military coup, calling on the generals to immediately restore constitutional order.

“Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world, extremely vulnerable to climate change. The people have already been through so much hardship over the years,” Türk said.

– CAJ News

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